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Rep. Napolitano Asks Pacific Fishery Management Council to Evaluate Potential Salmon Die-Off from GOP Water Bill

July 5, 2011
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano sent a formal letter to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) requesting an evaluation of H.R. 1837 The San Joaquin Water Reliability Act’s potential economic impact on California’s salmon fishing industry. The PFMC is the governing body responsible for managing the health of commercial fisheries in California, Oregon, and Washington, and it was forced to close California’s salmon fishery in 2008 and 2009 to protect collapsing salmon populations. 

“Over the course of our hearings, not enough information has been requested from the fishing industry,” Napolitano said in the letter. “The Pacific Fishery Management Council is in a unique position to review and provide in detail how H.R. 1837, if enacted, will impact salmon populations, habitat, fisheries management, and fishermen, who are dependent on this iconic resource.”

H.R. 1837 has sustained a barrage of criticism in recent weeks from editorial boards and concerned citizens across California as a “big gulp” effort to usurp state water laws, roll back environmental protections, and alter water delivery to favor certain agricultural users.

California fishermen have expressed concern that the loss of environmental protections would once again lead to a precipitous decline in the salmon population and a return to 100% unemployment for salmon fishermen.

“This radical bill would cause real economic damage and job losses for California fishermen,” Napolitano said. “It overrides our water rights, damages our environment, undercuts decades of agreements, and it almost guarantees the extinction of California’s salmon fishing industry.”

Napolitano is the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power.


Letter to the Pacific Fishery Management Council:


Letter of opposition from 12 different fishing industries:


Background on the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act:

•If passed, the new bill would override state law and disrupt or make impossible a number of negotiations Californians are currently involved in to improve their water supply, including the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the 2009 bipartisan water bill passed by the California legislature.

•Pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta kills young salmon as they swim out to sea, contributing to the decline of the salmon population. HR 1837 waives pumping restrictions for the Central Valley Water project and would lead to more die-offs in order to gain more water for junior water rights holders.

•The bill harms the environment by rolling back the water contributions that the Central Valley Project makes to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to 1994 levels, ignoring environmental changes in the Delta that have taken place over the last 17 years.

•The bill waives environmental impact studies for new water contracts in the Central Valley Project and extends current 25-year contracts without any environmental review for a minimum of 40 years. Because the contracts are exempted from contributing water for the health of the Delta, under current law other Californians will have no choice but to make up the difference when future droughts, climate changes, and environmental needs tighten the available water supply.

•The bill turns California’s water rights system upside-down, exempting these same agricultural interests from contributing water to help desperately weakened commercial fisheries and allowing them to use or sell water that would otherwise go to the fragile Delta. This favoritism upends California’s water rights system and reduces supply for other water users who continue to play by the rules.

•The purported aim of the bill is to help unemployment in the Central Valley, yet respected California economists Richard Howitt and Jeffrey Michael, as well as researchers at the Pacific Institute, have debunked claims that pumping restrictions have had any major effects on the Central Valley’s economy. Unemployment in the Central Valley has instead been primarily caused by the housing bust and national recession.

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